Humble Service

May the peace and grace of Christ reign in your hearts!

The readings this weekend lead us to reflect on humility and service of others.  The Gospel scene depicts Jesus as a special guest attending a formal meal celebration at a wealthy person’s home.   Through the past couple of weeks, Jesus has been healing and preaching in the area.  He has spoken about mustard seeds, yeast and narrow doors.  He cured a woman incapable of standing erect and the man afflicted with dropsy, which is known as edema today.  Jesus has been talking about the kingdom of God.  It’s a kingdom of new life that is open to all people, both Jews and Gentiles alike.  On the side of the mountain when he said “love your brothers and sisters,” he made a sweeping motion with his arm indicating everyone there; those of social status and those on the fringes of society.  Afterward he fed them all the loaves and the fish and the last person received the same portion as the Apostles.

Today Jesus reminds us how easy it is to get caught up in worldly standards, judgments and politics that constantly change: at times, it can seem like a roller coaster ride.  The lesson is for the least prominent and the most eminent among us.  God does not judge as people do and what we consider important is not necessarily what God regards as important.  But we do know that God is humble, for Jesus said “I am meek and humble of heart.”  The people at the banquette seem very occupied with who gets to sit with whom either for bragging rights or perhaps out of fear of being left out.  Lucky for us, we don’t have to worry or jostle to get a place close to Jesus.  He is the highest guest of honor, and he dwells within us.  He sees the truth of our intentions in all our efforts and he knows the desires of our hearts.  This knowledge gives us the freedom to not worry about how others perceive us and allows us to focus on Jesus’ encouragement to follow him in humble service of God and neighbor.  May God preserve you in peace! +++ Fr. Peter

The Narrow Gate

May the God of all grace confirm and strengthen you in love!

When I was a 12 year old kid I had a summer job working on a ranch out of Pinedale, Wyoming.  Being a ranch hand required knowledge and skills from doctoring people and animals to mechanical wizardry with bailing wire and everything in between.  The spectrum of tasks associated with living and working on a ranch was and still is, broad.  As you might have already surmised, the development of such skills takes time and repetition and it goes without saying that perfection comes at the cost of many mistakes. One day, my older brother Joe and I were sent out to repair fences and haul debris from the “home pasture” and I was volunteered to drive the truck/trailer for the operation.  It took me a few tries to get the clutch figured out but I got to the point that I could avoid the bucking starts and killing the engine most of the time.  I didn’t like shifting gears because I could hardly reach the pedals and I almost always went off the road while looking down, trying to get the stick shift into the proper slot (I quickly developed a dislike for International standard transmissions!).  Joe was always insistent on fast travel so I was forced to improve my shifting.

The narrow gate incident arrived when we were in a hurry to get back to the ranch for lunch.  I thought I could make a turn-around out of the pasture without making the necessary exaggerated arc to get the truck and trailer lined up to pass through a particularly narrow gate.  The truck made it but the edge of the trailer caught the post and I tore out the gate post and a section of fence.  When we reached the ranch house, I had to give an account to the older ranch hands and the boss.  I got razzed and laughed at in good-natured fun then they all came out and helped Joe and I repair the fence—and widened the gate!  I think that like the older hands and the boss, God knows that we are going to make mistakes while learning.  But if we ask him, God will help us in tight situations and Jesus is always there to repair our failed attempts.  If we take the time to try to do the job right, God will help us and we’ll make it through!  May God’s blessings be with you always! +++ Fr. Peter

Struggles Of Faithful Witness

Peace and blessings to you!

The readings this weekend do not bring a lot of comfort with them.  Rather, they remind us that lives of faith and service will encounter struggle but God is always present to help!

Jeremiah lived in a very troubled time.  His country of Judah was under the control of the Assyrian Empire and this led the people away from God to following the religion of foreign rulers, which was idolatry.  Jeremiah’s message was to define true religion and to proclaim that the coming wars were a result of the people’s wrongdoing.  Jeremiah reminded the people that the covenant between Israel and Yahweh was a matter of love—like the love between a man and a woman in marriage.  Sadly, the leadership and the people preferred the status quo.  They did not want to change and they made Jeremiah suffer for calling them to turn their hearts and come back to God.

In the Gospel, Jesus tells his disciples that he did not come to bring peace to the earth but rather division. “I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing!”  Many of us experience conflict when we hear these words and we are concerned when it seems that God’s word is giving people a warrant to shatter peace, to cause division, and be prophetic to the point of disrupting the civil status quo.

Over the past year we have seen several terrible tragedies: shootings at schools, shooting of police and police killing people.  It doesn’t end there: In Europe, the Middle East and Africa the violence has caused hundreds of thousands of deaths and millions of refugees. In the US we continue to have polarizing discussions around the Second Amendment, Religious Liberty, Freedom of Conscience, transgenderism and same sex “marriage”, as well as the continuing menaces of human trafficking, pornography and violence in American cinema and video games.  The proponents of abortion are promoting violence.

The Gospel values that we as Christians profess are in direct conflict with all the above public topics.  But it is first of all felt inside of ourselves.  The call to Christ is first of all personal and it moves us to public witness.  The Letter to the Hebrews calls us to “rid ourselves of every burden and sin that clings to us.”  The violence that we first feel is when we turn from darkness to light.  It is the violence of conforming our will and desires according to Christ’s law of love and service to God and neighbor rather than selfishness.  Some of us may feel alone and neglected in our own household rather than loved and cared for.  Perhaps the violence required is speaking out and expressing our feelings in a non-threatening way so that new life may begin through new patterns of behavior that speak in love languages.  Another dimension of violence is zeal for justice over complacency, desire for holiness over indifference, prophetic speech over the status quo.  The hearer of God’s Word cannot remain idle or un-moved for God’s Word is truly alive and when it strikes the heart, it can move mountains.  St. Catherine of Sienna said “if you are what you should be, you will set the whole world on fire.”  For our part, we must believe and put our faith into practice in a most congenial way, first in our own hearts and homes, then publicly in our community.  God bless you always! +++ Fr. Peter

Heavenly Treasure

May the light of Christ give you joy and peace!

This weekend’s Gospel reminds us that nothing in this world lasts forever.  Jesus says don’t be afraid to make a real and true commitment to use our resources in a way that will secure a heavenly treasure.  Heavenly treasure can never be stolen or lost or decay.  In fact, it becomes an eternal weight of glory.  No one in today’s stock market or investment firms can make that promise!  Sigmund Freud had a favorite story that touches on the point of preparing for the future.

There was once a sailor who swam to the shore of an island after his ship wrecked.  When the natives found him, they rejoiced and carried him on their shoulders and made him king of the island.  As with any king, the people would joyfully do anything the king asked of them.  One day he asked why they made him, a perfect stranger, their king, they replied: because the person selected to be king can only be a king for one year.  When the year has passed, he is then taken to a desert island, Kings Island, and left there to die as a sacrifice to the gods.  The sailor realized that if he was going to survive, he needed a plan for the future.  As king, he ordered the carpenters of the island to build a small fleet of boats.  When the boats were ready, he ordered the famers to dig up fruit trees and nutritious plants, put them in the boats and transplant them on Kings Island.  Then he ordered the masons to go and build a house on Kings Island so that when the year ended and it was time for him to be banished, he would have things stored and ready for his arrival.

Although the story of the sailor is simplistic, it does help us to understand what Jesus is getting at.  As disciples of Jesus, we recognize that God is more important than anything else.   God is the source of all our lives and we hope to come to an eternal dwelling with God.  As stewards of God’s many gifts, we know that God blesses and prospers our efforts to use his gifts wisely in the world.  Our mission is to increase faith and participation in God’s kingdom on earth.  Any investments that we make for God’s sake in the world will help the community of faith on earth.  Those who devote themselves and their resources to the mission of the Church will inherit an eternal reward.  Even those who offer a cup of water, like Veronica, will be rewarded.

May God enrich you all with his blessings! +++ Fr. Peter